Leadership-Damaging Habits You Probably Do Every Day (Part 1)

You may not realize it, but some of your daily habits could be slowly damaging your leadership and even your career. They might happen often, […]

You may not realize it, but some of your daily habits could be slowly damaging your leadership and even your career.

They might happen often, maybe even daily, for just a brief moment but the compounded effect is that they weaken the foundation of your standing as a leader and cause damage to your reputation.

Here is the list of the leadership-damaging habits and tips on how to fix them.
People Pleasing

Generally, this is about irrational desire to make everyone happy and putting other people’s needs first, at the expense of your own values and goals. It looks innocent enough on the surface because it’s a good instinct to try make people around us happy, but somewhere along the way, people pleasers decide that everyone else’s needs are more important than their own. They put themselves second in their own lives, sacrifice their goals to serve others, and then end up feeling resentful, dissatisfied, and depressed. 

When you dig deeper, you will see that people with the “disease to please” are not balanced, lack self-respect and confidence, and can’t set and keep healthy boundaries. People believe that the “disease to please” affects more women than men, but I have seen men well represented in my coaching practice.


If you are a leader and tend to be a people pleaser, fix it:

  1. Learn to set boundaries with others. This will stop people from taking advantage of your good nature and will also help you assert yourself more with your team.
  2. Accept that you can’t make everybody happy, and making everybody happy is not part of your role. 
  3. Be assertive. This goes hand in hand with setting boundaries. When you start speaking up for yourself more and making clear and decisive requests of others, people will begin to see you as a strong leader rather than a pushover.
Office Gossip

Sharing unchecked or untruthful information behind people’s backs is another toxic behavior that looks innocent on the surface, but undermines your reputation and destroys the fabric of trust between you and your team.
Whether you are the person who shares that information or just listens, this habit results in toxic atmosphere, low morale and irreparable damage to your leadership. People might seem to be interested in gossiping with you, but in the longer run they will learn their lesson and will think twice before they share things with you. As Dr. Brené Brown says in her iconic talk “The Anatomy of Trust” people will learn that what they share “is not safe with you”. 


Office gossip can be hurtful and destructive – here is how to remove its roots if you are leader:

  1. Be transparent with important information. 
  2. Communicate important news quickly and openly. 
  3. Avoid meetings behind closed doors where people are asked to keep important news secret. Unless you work in the MI6 or the CIA, that is;-)
  4. Keep communication channels open, so that people don’t have to rely on other resources to get the news.
  5. When you witness office gossip, signal in no uncertain terms that this is not welcome in your team.
Membership in the Wrong BMW Club

Coined by Professor Peter Hawkins, this “BMW Club” stands for “bitching, moaning and whining”. 

Negativity, like an emotional virus, is contagious. (Surprisingly, so is positivity.) This means that if you complain excessively, you can spread your bad mood, which in turn means that those around you may become more negative and feed it back to you.
Again, on the surface it might look justified – after all each workplace has more than its share of problems, but more often than not, instead of creating a team “united by a common enemy” you will create a toxic environment where people will freely offload their bad mood on whoever will lend a sympathetic ear (maybe all the people-pleasers around;-)) 

You may feel bonded to your co-workers if you share a venting session, but chronic complaining can come back to haunt you, so fix it:

  1. Complain at the right time, about a specific issue, to the right person. 
  2. Be honest with yourself and take one of the 3 options: “Accept it, change it or shut up about it”
  3. Advise the BMW-Club members to take one of the 3 options: “Accept it, change it or shut up about it”
  4. Complain, then troubleshoot for a solution. Involve others in brainstorming to empower them and show them you believe they are capable of changing things.
  5. Find other ways to manage frustration and stress.
People pleasing, tolerating office gossip and complaining can quickly erode your reputation as a strong, confident and fair leader, and can damage trust between you and your team.

Be aware of these behaviors so you can avoid them and maintain the healthy culture of mutual trust and respect in your team.

Next week, we will look at three other habits that usually come with a “quick gratification” energy, and a hefty leadership price tag. Stay tuned!


With leadership greetings,

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